Summer in Copenhagen. It’s amazing here. And we earned it. It was dark, dank and cold in December. But now, the Danish summer days are long. Full of that Nordic light we all so craved over winter. At midsummer’s peak, celebrated on the 23rd of June with the annual Sankt Hans aften festivities, the sun shines 17.5 hours in Copenhagen. The swing feels radical in contrast to the average 7 hours of daylight back in December. But it’s sommer now in Denmark. And there is so much to love about summer in Copenhagen.
The trees lining many streets are once more lush and verdant. Flowers bloom everywhere. At the end of May, the air is lavish with lilacs and vining roses. Roses that drape around doorways of those charming, colorful old houses all over town. The sun glints off the water and everywhere people are out soaking it up. Faces to the sun. When it’s out. And lately, it has been out in great quantities. A reminder when planning a summer holiday to Copenhagen, don’t expect perfect weather. There are few places better when it’s blue, blue skies overhead. But, be prepared for some good days and some potential grey days. Remember to bring layers. Even if you turn up during a few of the more lacking days weather wise, you can absolutely still enjoy this beautiful city and have a great time exploring. So, without further ado, here are my favorite things to do in Copenhagen in the summer.
My Top 10 Danish Summer Experiences in Copenhagen – in no particular order:
1. Boating in the canals –
Really – you must do this. Copenhagen is a harbor town. It’s in the name. København means merchant’s harbor. There is water everywhere. Seize your inner Viking sailor. You must get out on it. Especially in the sommer. Don’t have a boat? No problem. There are so many options for all budgets to explore the canals and harbor in Copenhagen. First visit to the Danish capital? I would recommend starting with a canal tour for a great overview of the city’s major sites and layout. They depart regularly during the day from Nyhavn or Holmen’s Church.
Netto-Bådene – 60 minute tour, Adults DKK 40, Children DKK 15
Want a little more control over your tour? Or maybe, you’ve been to Copenhagen before and don’t need the speech in four languages. Even better – you live here? Have you ever rented a sustainable solar powered boat? You can! We adore Go Boat and their super charming little electric picnic boats. Book online, rent by the hour. It is popular when the weather is nice, so plan ahead. Pick up your boat from their cool outpost near Islands Brygge right on the canal. We love the slow, cozy Go Boats for their charm, ease, stability and maneuverability. There is a picnic table in the middle! No time to pack a lunch? Order ahead online and they will fashion a perfect picnic for your group or you can pick up some provisions right on sight. Highly recommend trying this at least once. So very fun fun! Go Boats booked full? Try Friendships in Christianshavn, a new outfit just opened this summer, we have yet to try!
Need a budget option? Jump on a harbor bus and ride it up and down the canals. For the price of a normal bus or metro ticket, you can cruise the canal and enjoy the views and sunshine on the cheap. Have you rented a bike? No problem – roll it right on.
Harbor Bus – Adults DKK 24 for one trip between 2 zones valid on bus, metro and harbor for 1 hour. If you buy the 24 or 72 hour city passes, you get unlimited public transport access, including train to/fro airport.
2. Biking in the breeze –
No list would be complete that didn’t include biking in Copenhagen. This town is made for it and is regularly voted most bike-friendly city in the world! It is flat and there are ROADS with their own stop lights for bikes here. Need a quick Danish bike etiquette lesson? Read here. Go with the flow of traffic and learn the hand signals. You should be fine. And don’t worry, many Danes leave the city between weeks 28-30 so there will be less pressure for you if visiting at that time. Something about warm breezy weather and just biking bespeaks sommer to me. Perfection. You can rent electric bikes at many depots around the city. They can be heavy and cumbersome if you aren’t used to them. Prefer a regular bicycle, many shops rent cykler by the hour or the day. Check with your hotel, many offer bike rentals as well.
Bycyklen – Electric bike rental with built in GPS, payable by credit card – sites all over town, flexible pick up and return. DKK 25/hour.
Rent a Bike Copenhagen – Bike rental DKK 90/day.
Take a bike with a basket. Bike to your picnic. Or to a Harbor Pool. Or to a park! Or to drinks on the water… it can ALL be done on a bike here in summer. (Or really anytime here in Copenhagen.)
3. Swimming in the Harbor –
This is a such a very Copenhagen thing to do. The city has worked very hard to make sure that the water quality is safe to enjoy and people do all the time. You can jump in really anywhere, but with children, I feel safer utilizing the free public Harbor Baths on the main canal. And by baths – don’t think large men in towels – this is just an open air swimming pool on the water with lifeguards. The most popular of the baths is located at Islands Brygge which can be quite a scene when the weather is nice. People go to see and be seen hanging out on the lawn. (GoBoat is here, and the Harbor bus drops off nearby, so you can get your canal cruise on AND swim in it!) My kids ignore the masses and LOVE jumping off the huge platform that looks like a ship right into the canal.
Harbor Bath – Havnbadet Islands Brygge – Islands Brygge 14, 2300 Copenhagen S – Open from 6/1 to 9/30
Don’t like swimming with the masses – try the CopenCabana Harbor Pool by Fisketorvet Shopping Mall – you can still jump off a slightly lower platform, but there were FAR fewer people there. More geared at lap swimmers and kids who like to jump in and out repeatedly. Works for us!
CopenCabana Harbor Bath – Havnbadet Fisketorvet – Kalvebod Brygge 55
1560 Copenhagen V
4. Beach Time
Don’t think of beaches when you hear Copenhagen? If the sun is shining – everyone in Denmark does. On a warm day, our family particularly loves a beach. The Baltic water temperature becomes much warmer than you would expect due to large sandy shallows, with relatively little tides. The Danish beach is one of my absolute favorite places to picnic in the summer.
The best around Copenhagen? By far. Bellevue Beach in Klampenborg, north of the city. It is gorgeous and worth the effort to get to (just jump on the C train and get off at the Klampenborg stop – go up the hill then turn right and head towards the water). The Bellevue Strand structures here were developed by Danish design super hero Arne Jacobsen. You can’t help but be charmed by the blue and white towers and matching kiosks and volley ball court.
Pick a spot close to the Bellevue Strand & Grill for yummy drinks, snacks and ice cream. Tables, loungers and chairs available to customers. The water is nice here and children can splash and build sand castles or stalk crabs on the rocks.
If Klampenborg feels too far from town for you try Amager Strandpark with views of the Øresund Bridge and a fun public swim facility right on the water. (TIP: Lock up your bike here.) Kiosks with pølsers and popsicles.
Our go to local hangout is Svanemøllen Strand – because we can cycle there in under 10 minutes and it is perfect for a dip off the boardwalk. Take an instant grill an make an evening out of it. Play a game of football in the sand. You can pick up a DKK 20 disposable grill at most grocery stores during the summer months. Light it up, throw on some grill meats and enjoy the late light and smooth warm water.
5. Picnic in the Park
Don’t want sand in your sandwich? There is so much beautiful green space in Copenhagen – large parks and gardens where you can enjoy the outdoors and eat al fresco like a regular Dane. Remember those 20 kroner grills? Perfect at the park too.
There are many excellent places to procure picnic provisions – but my favorite has to be Torvehallerne – the Glass Market near Nørreport Station in the middle of town. There is excellent take away food as well as fresh fruit and vegetables. A sunny afternoon, early evening at a table outside at Torvehallerne is perfection. Grab a glass of Danish craft beer and the delicious Nordic charcuterie plate from Omegn. Or a duck confit sandwich from Ma Poule or tacos from Hija de Sanchez and enjoy. Delightful. Lots of great take away options to eat there right there or carry to one of the beautiful nearby green spaces to enjoy like…
Botanical Gardens – Botanisk Have – Gothersgade 130, 1353 Copenhagen
The Botanical Garden is a beautiful oasis in the middle of Copenhagen. Meander the beautiful paths, smell the flowers, look for toads on the toadstools. Get inspiration from the test garden or just relax on the lawn. This is another perfect spot for a picnic in the sommer while enjoying the flowers. You can bring your Torvehallerne treats here, but no grills are allowed. Food carts and outdoor cafés are available if take away in the grass isn’t your thing. Don’t miss the fresh fruit stand right outside the gates at the corner of Gothersgade and Øster Voldgade. Bright red, shiny, delicious and fresh Danish strawberries and cherries.
Ørstedsparken – Nørre Farimagsgade, 1364 Copenhagen K
This lovely little green oasis is the opposite direction from Torvehallerne. Cross through the always busy and cement Israel Plads to the tree lined paths ringing the pond that sits in the middle of the city. There is a playground and ping pong table at this end. You can rent paddles and get a coffee or ice cream at the nearby Café Hacienda whose charming terrace might tempt you to tarry while the kids teeter. I love the flowers that line the lanes here.
Much larger than the parks that string along the inner city, we love our nearby Fælledparken in Østerbro. So does the entire city as you will always find people here. Running along the many paths. Playing sports in the shadow of F.C. København’s home stadium Telia Parken. Just relaxing with friends. Picnicking on the grass or at the many public tables available.
There are also several great playgrounds for kids younger or older. You can take a break, set up your picnic and let them run off some steam. Little ones may enjoy the Tårnlegepladsen or “Tower playground” near the corner of Blegdamsvej and Frederik V’s Vej. The slides and climbing equipment here mimics Copenhagen’s iconic architecture. On a warm day with little ones in tow you can take your picnic to the Toddler pool (Fælledparkens Soppesø). Located behind the skatepark near Norre Allé and Edel Sauntes Allé, it is a charming place to cool off. My kids are a little older and enjoy the more physically active play area near Den franske plads on the Serridslevvej side. Here there are giant swings, an obstacle course and trampolines as well as small courts for football and basketball. Even if you aren’t a kid, don’t have kids and don’t want to be near kids – Fælledparken is huge enough that you can find a lovely corner that fulfils your Danish summer needs.
6. Carriage ride in Dyrehaven–
Just north of Copenhagen in Klampenborg is the royal hunting grounds and nature preserve known as Jægersborg Dyrehaven. Take the C line on the S trains and get off at the Klampenborg train station and head up the hill to the bridge. Here you can hire a horse drawn carriage to take you to the oldest amusement park in the world – Bakken. Or you can ask them to take you through the enormous preserve up to the Eremitage Slot, the Royal hunting lodge. Here you can see the huge herd of royal deer. Prices vary depending on length of your trip and how many people, but expect to pay between DKK 150-400. Negotiate up front and be clear what you want to see. Tipping is not common in Denmark. Note: this is the same train stop for Bellevue Beach – you could do both – make a day of it!
7. Happy Hour al Fresco
Literally anywhere by the water. BYOB and pull up a bench along the canal or on the beach. Copenhagen has a very tolerant open container policy which I will admit feels very strange to me, but seems to work here and with the price of a drink out, I appreciate the option. Or try one of the many charming spots right on the water. I love the little kayak bars that skirt Slotsholmen or sit on the super darling canals in Christianshavn. So cute. Not out and about in a boat? But still want to feel part of the canal action? Go to Papirøen and the home of Copenhagen Street Food. Yummy drinks and so many good food choices. Or on the opposite side of the canal down near the Kastellet (not far from tourist stop the Little Mermaid) – go to Toldbolden. Drinks are a little spendier here and the stylish crowd reflects it, but the atmosphere is lovely. Nab a lounger and enjoy the people watching on and off the water.
8. Ride the Swan Boats on the Lakes
The lakes sit at the edge of the old town, a man made division between the historic center and the popular neighborhoods of Vesterbro, Nørrebro and Østerbro nearby. Cafés and bars line the north side of the lakes and it is always a popular place for walkers, runners and bikers. Chill on the famous Dronning Louises Bro and watch the cyclers roll past. Or head down to Kaffesalonen on the Peblinge Sø (lake) and rent one of their swan boats. A giant swan shaped paddle boat can be rented by the half hour or hour and is a delightful way to spend an afternoon. The swans only fit two people, but larger paddle boats can accommodate up to 7 passengers.
Kaffesalonen Paddle Boat Rental – Peblinge Dossering 6 2200 Copenhagen N
Swan Bicycle for 2 persons costs DKK 75 per ½ hour, DKK 100 per hour.
9. Ice Cream
I scream, you scream, we all scream for is cream! Danish ice cream is delicious. Paradis is a chain that is all over town and affords an excellent scoop or two. My personal favorite is Østerberg Is in Østerbro. It is a small shop on Rosenvængets Allé run by Catherine Østerberg and family. Every flavor we have tried here is fantastic, but my go to (if it is available) is the lakrids (yes, licorice! The Danes are seeping in!) and kokos (coconut.) YUM. My husband loves the avocado and the kids go for the havtorn and hyldeblomst – also very Danish flavors.
Out and about in the colorful Nørrebro neighborhood? Try Istids – flash frozen with liquid nitrogen on the spot – it is a delicious experience to watch your treat freeze before your eyes.
Tivoli is the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world, in operation since August 1843. (Dyrehavesbakken, only 20 kilometers up the road in Klampenborg is the oldest, but my heart lies in Tivoli.) Tivoli is all sorts of charming in any season, but overflows with flowers, marching guards, live music and fireworks shows in the summer. It can also be crowded with tourists in the summer. Don’t worry. Tivoli is the perfect size and has plenty to do with or without waiting for the rides. Simply relaxing on the center lawn while the children dart in and out is truly a lovely way to spend the afternoon.
Grab some take-away, a glass of wine or a cold Carlsberg and if you are lucky enough to nab one of the loungers – sit back and soak up the atmosphere. Unlike other amusement parks around the world, the food offerings are very good here.
Tivoli offers a myriad of entertainment options if the idea of rollercoasters makes you lose your delicious lunch. Try to make time for marveling at the prestigious Tivoli Guard marching through the park in their red and blue regalia. The guard is made up of boys and now recently girls starting at age 8 up to… You could take in a theater show, but remember that all them will be in Danish. Need a more universal language? There are tons of musical performances – both modern and classical for your listening pleasure. Many Fridays in the summer – there are free concerts (after you pay admission) from the main lawn stage. Known as Fredagsrock in Danish, my daughter loved the Jessie J concert last summer and can’t wait for Zara Larsson coming this June! Tivoli is also know for their fireworks displays and they are worth the wait if you can make it until the end of the park day! You can find the current events listing here as well as visiting hours and park plans.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
LOCATION: Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 København
HOURS: 11:00-23:00 Sun-Th, 11:00-24:00 Fri-Sat
SUMMER SEASON: April 6 – September 25, 2016
NOTE: You can buy an entrance ticket for around 100DKK, but that will not include any rides. You can purchase an unlimited ride bracelet or a booklet of tickets to be used per ride.
Anything to add? Please share below! Cheers from Copenhagen – Erin